Taking pictures is a good thing, and not just for showing off your horses. Sometimes when you can’t find anyone to help you train your horses, it is very helpful to see yourself ride. (Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of trainers in Denmark, all over the place actually, but none I would trust with the training of my horses…)
My friend and I took some pictures of Saleem the other day, and while my friend didn’t seem bothered by our pictures, I must admit, when I looked them over, I knew instantly that this was not where I was going with my horse. I could do better. I would have to do better.
He is tense, his back is stiff, and his lower neckline is tight.
This was just not good enough.
Now, I know that Saleem is a bit of a special horse, a headshaker and an Arabian with a frail temper and a short attention span, but I have always known where I was going with this horse, and I am my own worst critic.
He is stiff in his shoulder, overextending his neckline instead of flexing his back, ducking under vertical, even on a lose rein.
(This is what rollkur riders mean when they try to excuse it with the horse doing it on its own. Truth is, there is no excuse, this is just bad riding, and Saleem would never overextend like this unless I was asking him something I had not prepared him for. What he is responding to here, is my leg, asking him to round his body around it, and he chooses to just turn his head, because he is not in balance and he simply can’t round his back. My bad, all the way through.)
He even, for the first times, becomes off beat in his trot. That has NEVER happened before, and I will never have another picture taken of this horse, with a three beat trot, EVER again. This is just poor riding, once again, I am failing completely to balance the horse, letting him have too much weight on his front legs. In my world, this is completely unacceptable.
And I know, it’s a minor offbeat, most riders wouldn’t even notice it, and maybe I am hysterical, but it’s the little things that you ignore that tend to grow behind your back, until the horse is completely ruined and you never realized it. A minor offbeat like this one, is correctable. If I let it go on for a year or two, without addressing it, it may not be, and his front legs may not hold up that long, leaving me with just another dressage horse that broke down with a suspension injury or a ringbone, or any other of the classical causes of death for the modern day horse…
So yes, I am hysterical. I realize that when you break in youngsters (Saleem is 6,) you can’t do everything perfectly. I realize that in all of last year, with his headflicking and his balance problems, we haven’t been doing things according to “the book” and that is okay. Saleem has always been a special needs child. Still, as we are getting past that, I need to measure up and do better.
Sometimes you just need a critical eye. I realize that all these pictures could be excused, one way or another, that I am not really forcing him to do anything, that I am not hurting him and that this is really not “criminal” riding in anyway, but I do hold myself to higher standards than this. I can do better. I can help him better.
(Looks flashy, though right? Looks like dressage, doesn’t it? Its not. Once again, his back is lowered, his head is behind vertical, his neck is tense, his trot is offbeat… Just like most modern days dressage horses…)
This is not pictures I will ever be proud of.
So why show them?
Because I would like to demonstrate the helpfulness of pictures, the value of seeing yourself and your horse. Looking over these pictures, I knew instantly that this was not the path I wanted to follow and it stopped right there.
So we took new pictures, three days later, to ensure me that Saleem and I were on the right track now, and I must say, what I came home with here, are text-book examples of how to ride your young horse, long, loose, and balanced, activating all the right muscles, not damaging the front legs, not tightening the lover neckline…
So yes, three days apart. I CAN do better. I am so relieved to see that. For a moment there, I was fearing that I was failing this horse, and now I got to say, these latest pictures are perhaps the best pictures I have ever had taken of me and a young horse.
And I know, I should look up, I should not fall forward as much as I do, I make a lot of mistakes as a rider, when it comes to looking good, I am not perfect, and I need to work on that, but look at the horse.
No matter how much I sit up there like an idiot, I place my balance right, I place his balance right and he is just perfect. To me, that is the most important thing.
Anything else, can be adjusted over time. As long as I get the right response from the horse, and are able to ride him without damaging him, nothing else matters. Notice, we are back at a two beat trot again as well… it’s all about balance and weight distribution…
And doing your job as a rider.